Sunday, August 29, 2004

I reckon Gloucestershire's success is to blame for England current shiteness at one-day cricket. England are blatantly following Glouc's allrounders galore model, but it doesn't work when the opposition is world-class.
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Phat waxness! In the space of two days I've recieved Vitalic 'Poney ep' and Quarks/Superpitcher'I walk'/'Fieber'. Even though I've heard these tunes like, dozens of times, I was still bouncing round my room thrilled at 8:30am when they arrived. Probably something about physically having them, mentally assigning a smell, a texture, being able to touch 'Fieber'. Oh my God 'La Rock01' still sounds scorching white hot, a careering space shuttle burning up on re-entry, it's paint blistering, just managing to stay intact. I should have just stuck this on when the host's wanker step-brother told us to 'stop playing that noise' at a party on friday. In an eighties film, he would have been thrown across the room by sheer force of tunes. In reality he threatened to have us chucked out, and we didn't force the issue.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Let us now praise the techno handclap

i'm on my fifth read of the fantastic article on Thomas Melchior by Philip Sherburne in this months Wire. I'm mad keen to hear the Yoni album, as it was the paragraph about synth handclaps that really caught my eye. Sherburne seems (and i realise i could be well wide of the mark) to be saying that before hearing the Yoni album, he thought 'phony' handclaps were too stilted and obviously fabricated, a clunky insensitive representation of human handclaps that are found on the off beats of big disco rhythm sections.

Handclaps are special. Probably the sound that embodies the rockist-pissing-off artificiality of electronic dance music, in that it's obvious what it's meant to sound like, but there's no getting away from it's machine-rigidity. It's also a nod to crowd-music synergy in dance music; the music reacts to the dancefloor, so sounds made on the dancefloor should be used in the music.

Tracing the path of the handclap, it always seems to turn up in music where the producers are trying to get absolutely everything out of their limited hardware. You can hear it in something like Mr Fingers 'Washing Machine' from way back in the day. Everything is thrown in to make this groove, whistles, bells, but despite the crisscrossing toms and cymbal splashes, it's the handclap that anchors it all, strafing over spiralling bass. It must be something in it's sonic texture that has kept the handclap so popular for so long, that staggered scratchy lens shutter sound, the perfect accompaniment to a shocking blast of light. My current fave handclaps are in Richard Davis 'In the Air' (acid relapse edit) found on the Michael Mayer fabric mix. The simple addition of the handclaps in this bring the absolute climax like piercing midrange thunderclaps.

When you hear them used like this, across the beat, rhythm as hook/melody, it becomes a bit of an anti-climax to hear them used in Lil' Jon productions or Lemon D 'City Lights' as the only snare. The handclap isn't really strong enough to handle snare duties on it's own and so, while you still do get the rave reference, the rhythm pump is kind of lost. It becomes kind of frustrating to have that the snare not pinned down to a perfect singularity, it sounds too thin to really keep the pulse. Handclaps are best used in ways that Tortoise would think of, splattered across the beat, chucked around freely while kick-snare does the donkey work. You can't constrain those handclaps, producers, please paint them with a sloppy brush.

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weird weird weird horror 8 bar track: Lix 'Candyman 2004'.
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Cheeky Banter steps up:
'I'm wicked/ I play lyrical cricket/ the rhyme is the ball/ and the microphone's the wicket/ other mc's get run out/ caught out/ it's back to the pavilion/ they only made one run and I made a million/ i'm bowling bouncers and yorkers/ to all the breeze talkers/ all soundboys that give lip/ i'll catch at slip/ I'll be with Beefy getting blapsed/ your middle order collapsed'

the archives of this site has some excellent mixes. Check the Magda mix, lots of brittle crunchiness...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

if anyone's wondering what happened at the boatrave, this will put you straight. I had a great time despite only hearing about 12 bars of music, preferring to discuss pressing matters on the poop deck with buddies. I even did some guerilla advertising for this very blog in the toilet cubicle with a marker pen.

Shouts must go to all rave massive, particularly Elise and Alex for coming all the way from Brighton and paying 16+£ just to get a hammering bitch behind the eyes come the morning. Lovely evening.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Sounds of the DJ Marc Dauncey He emailed me some old jungle mixes, but the more up to date ones look quality as well.

coldness

just recieved the DJ Minx 'A walk in the Park' with a Matthew Dear remix, and i'm stunned. The Dear mix is cold but not cold in the way you would normally expect. 'Cold' is usually used (in music reviews at least) to describe an absence of 'warmth', a distance, lacking emotion, and is often used in conjunction with 'harsh' or 'metallic' or 'industrial'. 'Cold' is a standard adjective for so much techno music, a by-word for anti-humanity in the music; machines cannot feel, they are numbed by coldness.

This track is cold in an icy, sparkly way. Crystalline structures on a winter car window, or a perfectly designed icicle. There's a sound on the drums that seems to have the consistency of partially melted snow, slushy and fluid but with crunching icy granules. The synth/glockenspiel that seems translucent, but rigid and smooth, the powerder hi-hats; it's all so cold, but that description just seems wrong. The track is too pretty and brittle to be cold in the conventional sense.

I'm trying to fit Wiley's 'coldness' and his recent comments ('I'm feeling warmer') in here. Those cello/cor anglais bits of igloo seem to have that same wintery non-'cold'ness, also those pick axe in ice off-beat clicks. It just seems that cold is usually taken as an absence of 'warm'(as GCSE physics teaches)and feeling, when in fact it has a feel all of it's own.
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I must work on my punctuation.
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Warp boat party tonight. Warp don't seem to realise that it's all well and good messing about in boats, but getting on and off at strict times is not the rave style. Ah well, as tha MPC says, lobbing Presspack in the Thames could be a fun maritime folly. Plus sounds of the DJs Ceephax, Vibert, AFX, and Plaid; all shall be shipshape. Hoist the blah blah, pieces of etc....

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

FK


After last Saturday, my admiration for Francois K grew even further. Fidgeting around behind the decks with glasses perched on the end of his nose, the crowd controlled as if on a string, drenching 'la rock01' in echo in the builds until it's a massive hydra-headed noize beast, suddenly dropping 'strings of life' sending me and simon running to the dancefloor just to be part of the moment when that piano plays, all those tried and tested eq tricks that have been rocking dancefloors since '75 or whenever. He looked like he was loving every minute of it as well, pumping his fist in the air, just absorbed in his own selections. A really happy, touching night.
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Yesterday I worked out 'strings of life' on the piano, so if anyone wants to start a Derrick May tribute band you know where to come.

Like Mr Reynolds, I think it's time for drum 'n' bass to be abandoned as this blogs arch-nemesis. I shall send it on it's way to do what it pleases, and not darken these doors again. To end on a positive I like what Jess Harvell put at the bottom of that bloggers v. d'n'b thread;

'dnb is 10-12 years old now, arguably...which means basically it's house around 95-97. lots of big superclub fodder, lcd twelve-inches, and any number of underground, less popular strains (inperspecitve/breakin/bassbin/offshore as relief/cajual maybe?). which means maybe in two to four years we'll have an "underground" dnb scene as vibrant as house's was at the turn of the last decade. can you imagine how good (and weird) a dnb basement jaxx would be?'

yeah!or a d'n'b Perlon or Kompakt or Matt Herbert. I would wager that jungle is probably too fertile a fomula (or anti-formula; the freedom of structure and technique) for this not to happen. Just look at how much music has been created in tribute or debt to jungle, ie. loads and loads of the warp/rephlex/planet mu axis. It seems bound to produce something that will one day be worth getting really excited about. But for now, it's goodbye.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Matthew Dear/Francois Kevorkian/House Music All Night Long

This saturday i'm off to fabric, dodging the beshirted stag night types (who tend to clear off by about about 3am, the ravers watershed), and all being well, enjoying a feast of up-down jerking rhythms with Matthew Dear and Francois Kevorkian. Seeriously I CANNOT wait.

House seems to be my biggest interest at the moment. Just thinking about housey hi-hats makes me put on a smug face and gently rock my head in time, as if the grim kitchen i'm in is a sweaty but restrained Parisian basement club. Matthew Dear in particular seems to be comprising the majority of my musical expenditure on his own at the moment, so addictive is his bouncing funk. His tracks all sound so well organised, components never fuzzed in an over busy mix. His hat-snare-hat, hat-snare-hat patterns work in perfect clock-like regularity, but are surrounded by shuffly cuts and glitches that give the tracks their garage-like itchy restlessness. I can think of lots of artists with a signature sound, but Matthew Dear is the only one I can think of with a signature feel. It's all about taking Chicago's piston jack, and stripping it all down to bare minimum, and allining unlikely sounds in place of big riffs. He makes great use of silence as well, tiny chinks of light written into the rhythms like the stationary image left on the retina by a strobe light before the next jerk. Anyway here's a rundown of his best (omitting those i haven't heard):

EP1 (Spectral)
It's all here, the emphatic jack but without any big open hi-hats or resounding bass drums, keeping it clipped. 'Reae' is the banger here, staccato chicago bassline and delicious lift and fall effect in the beat. Hammers is a pretty good Todd Edwards impression but with Todd's vocal cut-ups and the garage shuffle, it's a bit too close to being a straight rip. 'Versus You' makes use of a nagging machine-sound, a slow, noisy printer in a hot office with Benny Benassi playing in the background.

Jabberjaw: Girlfriend EP (Perlon)
This is the shit. As minimal as it gets without resorting to blatant dubby-ness. The title track sounds barely above water, lugubrious bass bubbles, and the snatches of vocals gasping for air (they come in just slightly too loud, as if in panic) cut off before they can make sense. The more I think about it, the more it seems to fit in with the drowning metaphor. In 'I speak for some of that' the vocals sound like overheard conversations above the meniscus, the watery skank of the bass blocking off your ears suddenly. This really seems to be Matthew finding his own way with vocals, not using the Todd Edwards lush montage effect, but using the words like they were rhythmic 'jack your body' exhortations. The words (also the track titles) he actually uses are surreal/mundane snapshots of everyday life, a long way from forceful dancefloor orders. He works so well within the structures of house using classic little motifs (the backwards drum edit, full bass eq cuts) but at the same time you realise you've never danced to sounds like these before. Bicycle wheel squeaks and half picked-up radio stations, but all arranged in his killer pulse.

Leave Luck to Heaven LP
Hmm, I wasn't too sure when I got this. A lot of the tracks seem to sail a little close to the big synth wash wind. Not much of the bright tick and bounce of previous eps, a lot of definition is lost in the dub-ness of much of the first half of the album. The real stars are the two pop songs near the end. 'Dog days' uses these weird synth string yelps, and rhode-sy piano, to turn it into messy, wired soul. Stevie Wonder with added robotic jerk. 'It's over now' is even better. Like mournful speed-garage, 187 Lockdown with Joy Division. Terrifyingly drowsy vocal, and the grim determined laughter of the percussion. When the bass drops out at the end he sounds drunk and despearate 'I don't want to be left out/ why can't we work things out', as the percussion grows more and more pronounced drowning him out.

Anger Management (Spectral)
This is another wired funk panic. Fastest thing I've heard of him and also the most dense, a frantic guitar spasms around a straight house rhythm. Shuffling madness as if, he's beginning to lose control of things, desperately trying to reign the music in by cutting the bass but it has too much momentum to hold for long. It genuinely sounds slightly unhinged as it speeds along, as if it could easily disintegrate into complete noisy abandon. If the poppy, macro direction is where he is headed, I hope it sounds something like this.

His remixes are also works of subtle dancefloor genius. Check the ones for 'Bout ready to jak' by osborne (bassline! tight bouncing stuff, with creepy graveyard sounds in the background) and 'Clockwise' by Hakan Lidbo (trance-like(no not like that*) and cyclic). New album out soon I believe, and i'm looking forward to more dark goth funk pop on saturday.
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I didn't know a thing about Francois Kevorkian when me + buddy went to see him last year, but he was genius. Huge build ups of static and echoing, thrashing white noise, into pure New York gay club jacking. Not afraid of The Anthem either; 'La Rock01', 'Higher states of conciousness' 'Freak' by LFO, but I've never heard such a unanimous cheer as when he dropped 'strings of life'. That piano riff has to be in my top ten sounds ever, simultanously hands in the air euphoria and nostaligic contemplation. It says so much about the way dance music works that something so emotionally affecting, rather than overtly feel-good can provoke such a great reaction. People love to feel happy, but to feel tears welling up inside is far more cleansing.

(apres rave report to follow, i shall spend the next 28 hours or so getting worked up)





*=Reminiscent of something Andrew Weatherall said recently, that big breakdown snare-rush trance musics not trance inducing, and I must agree. It's far too up and down to have the stable vacancy of the mind in a trance, too much to distract. I think minimal house does far better in that respect, constancy over climax. Even something as traditionally 'soul-y' and familiar as Carl Craig has that mesmeric effect. House seems to be just at the right tempo to do this, just beneath exhilaration, just above the minimum for constant body movement, the energy flashpoint (arf).

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

ILM thread started after my post on d'n'b

Sunday, August 08, 2004

more d'n'b---soundsystems---gripes---to my london crew get paypwa

Revisited one of my favourite killing time/ procrastination haunts yesterday the oxford street HMV (our halls were opposite selfridges don't you know) and killed time/procrastinated like the good old days. ah yes, many an hour would be spent leafing through drum 'n' bass singles and getting all indignant that it wasn't very exciting, flinching at ludicrous over-production of pendulum and such like (pendulum are three behoodied australian ex-metallers whose d'n'b tunes resemble earpiercing versions of some hellish gameshow theme tune, thanks for that guys). anyway i listened to these records just to see what still a gwan today in d'n'b, and see for myself how depressingly little these records shared with the old jungle i was getting into at the time. Often there would be ones I liked, Roni Size 'bumbakita' is good fun, Technical itch can clearly rock a compressor, Ebony Dubs is always catchy ('muderation' has a retro junglist intro: "*siren* when i came in this business it wasn't about money, it was about music" hmm...). I liked Lemon D's latest effort called 'Pharoah' or something, tough looped amens and a no-nonsense bludgeon bass, rhythmically twitchy enough to make me think of bizzy b 'bad boy sound'. Dillinja 'in the grind' was also kind of bizzy-ish but with standard snare boredom and without the rave heritage (the recognition thrill you get from hearing it in a new context) of the mentasm sound in bizzy, and just goes on and on and on. If only these records used their loops for a fraction of the time before moving onto something else, THEN we'd be talking.

One of the most annoying things about nu-d'n'b records is that they're mastered at a ridiculously high volume, and try to fill every range on the frequency spectrum. This means you're basically listening to white noise, all pitches rolled into one aggressively loud mixdown. The last d'n'b event i went to (fabric i think) all you could hear was a nasty overdriven hiss, a snare dull-ly sounding through the fog, with the mc bigging this mess up over the top. Such is d'n'b's need now to impress with raw power, it's become all so turbo-cosworthed up far beyond what it's weak musical chassis can handle. It's become an excercise in hi-tech engineering, who can design and manufacture the heaviest bass, ot the biggest drums, the tune that will come in with the most force to wobble peoples trousers and big up the stadium-slaying sweeping effects. LFO and Nightmares On Wax built their bleep 'n' bass around a similar competitive premise; who could physically cut the loudest bass, but then it was adventuring into areas of the soundsystem that weren't exploited before. In d'n'b today systems are being over-revved and pushed way beyond what they what they can handle in the name of 'progrssion'.

When he hears something particularly wicked and dancable, one of my friends tends to say 'i could dance to that all night'. To this day i've never heard him say it about a jungle or drum 'n' bass tune, which is suprising as I'm pretty sure it has popped up in conversations about about garage/house/rock/hiphop, but that's not how jungle is supposed to work. It's strength is in temporality. It's not meant to settle into a safe followable pattern with seamless mixes creating one endless continuity. It's all about those momental contortions, being swamped by too much rhythmic information to process at once. Moments needing a rewind because you can't work out what actually happened during them. That's why the structures are so strange on '94-'96 jungle records; they need to be heavily punctuated to keep the potency of these seperate moments. If you look at a d'n'b 12" today you notice that in the right light it will always show three concentric rings (as well as the grooves being a relatively long way apart like a fingerprint, for extra volume). The outer ring is the intro, ususally just drums with a scary/futuristic synth or 'soulful' sample depending on whether they're hoping Grooverider or Fabio will play it. Then the second ring, the largest is where the bass comes in and remains for the majority of the record. This is sometimes preceded by the bass drum going buf buf buf buf bufbufbufbuf bubububububububu. The next one is another scary/soulful break down and then back to the main riff. The punctuation is standard and the moments are rendered useless by their reptition, bludgeoning the point about their one rhythmic idea.

oh well, i won't stop listening, if only to stir up my (self-)righteous ire.

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a late arrival to the charts as market force capitalism debate: surely simon reynold's SOACAs also have market forces exerted upon them from within, the dancefloor acting as trading floor. Producers will create tunes that pander to what the dancefloor wants, even refining them after dubplate pressings so they do their job more effectively, nothing is created in artistic isolation. However small the scale music is created with demographics and purposes in mind, which is all part of the self-criticism process everything is subject to.

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Listened again properly to Dizzee's new one 'Stand Up Tall' and i'm really beginning to Love it. Love to hear it played bassily in a house set. Love the way that the lyrics and synth have a similar *but not quite* rhythm in the first part of the verse. Those strings in the chorus are really one of THE great unexpectedly melodic grime moments (like the sinister cello/ cor anglais 'Peter and The Wolf' bit in Igloo), like suddenly it flourishes into something that makes perfect harmonic sense.

I'm so glad it's a big party track as well, just to show those 'fix up' nay sayers. Too many people treated bonafide party slaying anthem* 'Fix up look sharp' as a guilty pleasure, or just rubbished it entirely as a record-company-placating thrown together promo piss-about. It probably didn't the critical respect it deserved as it didn't really fit in with 'this new grime thing made on playstations by 14 yr-olds, vibrant blah blah blah' broadsheet reviews, and was kind of ignored as a step in the wrong direction. 'Stand up tall' is both grimy and party rockin'. Dizzee didn't rocket up through the underground because of his skill just as a chronicler of introspection, but through wrecking raves and 'flushing mc's down the loo' as well. 'Fix up' has amazing flow, those bits where he lets the first beat go to leave room for the Oooh sample, and then picks it up and it just rolls on, he sounds like a world-beating rapper, more vocal grain, imagination, style, rhythm than most i can think of. I am now sooo hyped for the album.

*scientifically proven when played as climax of DJ Le Jacques Magique's cannot-fail floor slaying final trio after 'run to the hills' and marc smith vs. safe'n'sound 'identify the beat'.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

actually, Slint may not be playing at this thing... look

hope this doesn't fall through, i imagine Foundation are a bit down after RE:TG went awry.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Summer Here Kids ('stay alone/ put a record on/ listen to the songs/ keep yourself at home')

thanks to heat inertia, job, and the fact that while a test match is on all i do is sit around steadily growing into my XL Viz tshirt, i have heard very little new music recently. oh well, i thought i'd do a pointless self-indulgent run-down (possibly ongoing, we'll see) of what i have been enjoying during the sweaty months:

Luciano & Quenum 'Orange Mistake' (cadenza)
nice to see long standing structural traditions in house music being challenged (mainly the disco device of layers building and then breaking down), maybe showing that the microhouse thing is not just a sonic tweeing up of house, but a kind of commercial/cultural placement shakeup in making the dj's 12" record more home-listener friendly. this may sound a bit light-weight (some may see this as leaning too far over the hardcore/accessible spectrum*), but with some complaints that techno caters far more for the dj than the fan, this can only be a good thing in terms of popularity and success. Part of the reason that kompakt is now such a massive cult is surely their tireless compilation issuing, and the poppy accessibility of the tunes themselves. I wouldn't like a return to the idea of 'electronic listening music', but a move away from the great public-shunner 'trackiness' would realign it towards the enthusiast rather than trainspotter (subtle difference maybe).

anyway... orange mistake has this seven-note riff (it sounds kind of blues guitar-y, but played on a cheap unison organ) that is played in different ways within the constraints of keeping these clunky notes in that order (not that that makes much sense, er, you'll know if you heard it, it sounds like a ball bearing falling down differently shaped flights of stairs). it just bumps along until the snare kicks onto the off beat and then it's just wicked crisp jacking. 'Funky dandy' after some trickling water noises a groove forms and someone says 'so nice, so cool, fonky dandy' like a french robot chef. then this clipped riff in is brought in by a jarring Phil Collins drum break. it's so light that it only allows very small jerked body movements, I imagine only very stylish Parisians can adequately dance to this. Both these are so entertaining, so funny and, I was about to say tongue-in-cheek but that's exactly what they're not, they're sort of witty and sharp and happy.

Moodyman 'Music People' (KDJ)
i love the way in this it sounds like there are loads of people bustling around at a mardi gras carnival while the song plays in the background. The rhodes piano burbles just under the surface and everything has that aged classic feel. maybe he's run it through a slight high filter to stop anything sounding too new and metallic. After listing to so many minimal records recently it's quite odd to hear a tune with so many layers going on, something so unashamedly big. I'd be very suprised if Luke Vibert hadn't heard this before making kerrier district, as it's the same mix of disco classiscism and tripped-out repitition. I'd say vibert's is less dense and more synthetic; this feels more like the real thing. Haven't heard the Moodyman album yet, but (as opposed to the luciano stuff above) i hope it's more looped, tracky stuff like this. in this case I think song structure would be a mistake.

Graham Coxon 'Freakin' Out'
kind of a pastiche of big indie-rock hits. it has all those stage madness stares in all the right places, the right unexspected chord jump where the bassists knees would buckle, this song was MADE for the Reading festival. I can visualise bottles of piss and burly metallers just listening to it. cool guitar chops though, as if you were watching Ash or someone playing the smaller tent, while the occasional blurt of metallica headlining the main stage wafts over on the stinking breeze.

great article on gutterbreakz on Front 242, Pansonic and noise in general. fits in with discussion that started with David Keenans noise primer, and went via k-punk and blissblog. with the sometimes dramatic chart scrap that passed through those parts as well, the blogs are shit-hot right about now.

Slint

Slint are playing at camber sands in december at this

Sunday, August 01, 2004

is the origin of that ubiquitous snare/ footstep in snow/ stadium clapping in time sound such as in j-kwon 'tipsy' and 'in da club' actually 'we will rock you'? i should hope so. i like that sound, the way that the spread of timing is v. head nod friendly because it's not a rigid pulse but a more relaxed lean-into-and-withdraw feeling. long may it continue to wreck up the charts.

other stadium stuff: I flicked on E4 where they were showing foo fighters at rock in rio. they did the iron maiden ending ie. loads of strumming on last chord, drummer counts 1-2-3-4, DER-DER-DER DUM, DER-DER-DER DUM.

after sleeping outside on friday night i have nine mosquito bites on my right foot. can anyone beat that?